Pensive Charl knows what it takes to win another major

Charl Schwartzel is looking for a practice round with Ernie Els ahead of the US Open which gets underway at Congressional Country Club.

The reigning Masters champion showed himself willing to take advice as he absorbed Jack Nicklaus’ hints on how best to play Augusta National, and as Els was the last man to win the US Open at Congressional, Schwartzel knows he can get some good tips from his countryman.

“I watched it on TV, Ernie winning this tournament,” said Schwartzel. “Obviously he was my hero and we were all just very happy for him. That’s as much as I really can recall. I’m still trying to find him somewhere; he seems to be dodging me this week. I want to play a practice round with him, get some tips.”

Even if he is unable to track Els down on the day before the tournament gets underway on Thursday, Schwartzel goes into the event with a legitimate shot at the title, and a reputation forged in the red-hot play he exhibited as he came from two strokes back with four holes to play at Augusta and won the green jacket by two shots with a spectacular run of four consecutive birdies.

He always felt the US Open would be the major he was most likely to succeed at first, if he were ever to win one.

“I’ve played five US Opens over here, it’s the one that I felt the most comfortable with,” he said. “Coming to this golf course this week, it’s another one that feels good to me. It’s all in front of me, and I’m actually quite excited about this week.”

As he showed at Augusta, he revels in the challenge tough courses pose: “I think it’s the way they set up the courses – as we know, the US Open is normally very tough,” he said.

“Par is a good score, put it that way. And I like courses where I play like that. I feel if I’m playing well, I do make a lot of pars, I can grind out pars, but on courses where you make 20-under par, it becomes a putting contest – and this actually is a ball-striking contest. I think I’d describe myself as a pretty good ball-striker, and I like that. Scoring is not low, and playing good golf you always stand a chance.”

It’s that self-knowledge that should turn Schwartzel into a multiple major winner, rather than a one-hit wonder that so many others have become.

“Every single guy I suppose has a chance to win. But the guy that that’s going to be – I don’t want to say smarter – but the guy that can last the longest can win. These courses, they catch everyone at one stage or another. You’re going to have to stay calm, focused, accept things that happen and on top of it play really good golf.”

Most of the pundits don’t even rate him ahead of this US Open. They could be very wrong.

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